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US Sikhs urged to fight turban ban in France
Dec 19 , 2008


NEW JERSEY: The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), India has called upon the Sikh community world over to unite in their fight against the French ban of wearing turban. France had passed a law in 2004 banning the wearing of turbans in schools. Subsequently it has not issued passports, driving licenses and residence cards to Sikhs who refuse to remove their turbans for ID photos. Avtar Singh Makkar President of the SGPC, India, was in New York recently to attend the First Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference.


He met with members of the Sikh Community in the Tri-state at an event hosted in his honor at the Royal Albert's Palace in New Jersey. Addressing the Sikhs, he said his visit to the United States was to coordinate efforts on this controversial ban and to mobilize the Sikh community to stand up and fight the ban. The Sikh Community also plans to submit a memorandum to the United Nations asking the world body to intervene and ask the French government to lift the ban on Sikh's wearing the turban. Makkar said several attempts have been made over the years not only by the Sikh community but also by the Indian government to have this ban lifted.


The SGPC had tried to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his last visit to India, Makkar informed. Although he felt there was no valid reason for the French issuing such a ban, Makkar reasoned it was imposed because the French authorities mistake Sikhs wearing turbans as Muslims. Makkar cited the case of Shingara Mann Singh, a French national who was not allowed to be photographed in his turban for a driver's license, lost his case in the European Court of Human Rights. He demanded that the ban should be lifted immediately because it was feared that after the French government ruling some other European Nations may also follow suit forcing Sikh people to migrate back to India.


A large number of Sikhs gathered at the Royal Albert's Palace, NJ to greet Makkar who was accompanied by Manjitsingh Dasuya, coordinator of SGPC, New York. The event was organized by Hardeep Singh, a Sikh community leader. On the occasion, the SGPC chief was also presented the orange scarf by several top community leaders along with a sword. Accepting the honor Makkar said that since his taking over as the leader of the SGPC it has been his aim to launch SGPC missions all over India to spread the message of the Akal Takhat and Sikhism. The SGPC, he said was planning to have more guest house rooms for pilgrims visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar and making special provisions for the NRIs.


Makkar also plans to start a private SGPC university which will offer courses in subjects like nano- technology and other advanced courses. "The SGPC accounts have been transparent and everyone can log onto the website and see the spending and revenue," he said. United Sikhs files case against French ban Meanwhile, the United Sikhs, a Sikh advocacy group in the US filed on Dec 15, first cases against France since the law was passed in 2004 banning religious signs in schools, including the Sikh turban. The move also comes in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) dismissal last month of a similar application by a French Sikh against France on grounds that even though the Sikh's religious freedom had been violated by France, it was justified because the Turban is a security threat.


"The Sikh community globally is very disturbed by the decision of the EctHR. The application before the UN Human Rights Committee is therefore critical to the Sikhs who regard the Turban as an integral part of their being. A Turban wearing Sikh never removes his Turban, as is evident from the most public Sikh person, Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh," said Mejinderpal Kaur, legal director for United Sikhs.

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